The winner left for the hospital in a wheelchair. The loser walked out with nary a scratch on him. More than 14,000 people exited, still shaking their heads in disbelief.
Just your typical Saturday night at the fights, if controversy and bizarreness are typical.
A day after Timothy Bradley’s shocking 12-round split-decision victory over Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden – with which he won Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title – many were still wanting someone to explain how the unbeaten Bradley managed to win a fight in which he appeared to have been dominated.
Fight judges Duane Ford and CJ Ross gave the decision to Bradley by 115-113 scores, while Jerry Roth scored it in Pacquiao’s favor by the same score.
Ford, 74, and Roth, 71, said Sunday they stand by their work. The CompuBox statistics showed Pacquiao dominated by large percentages in every category – 34 percent to 19 percent in punches connected, 24 percent to 11 in jabs connected and 39 percent to 28 in power punches connected.
“I thought Bradley gave Pacquiao a boxing lesson,” said Ford, who has worked as a judge in Nevada since the late 1970s and admitted he didn’t see the final punch stats. “I thought a lot of the rounds were close. Pacquiao missed a lot of punches and I thought he was throwing wildly.”
Roth, another longtime Nevada judge who has been working fights since the early 1980s, said: “I’m looking for effective aggressiveness. I thought Pacquiao won a lot of the early rounds, and I thought Bradley came on in the end. That’s why I gave Bradley the last three rounds. But I still thought Pacquiao had done enough to win.”
Ross, who has been judging fights since the late 1980s, did not return multiple calls Sunday seeking comment.
Nevada Athletic Commission chairman Skip Avansino said he stands behind the judges.
“We had three seasoned professionals working and I don’t question their determinations,” said Avansino, who was sitting ringside Saturday. “Unless something is brought to our attention that there was improper behavior, we’re not going to take any action. I’m not going to second-guess our judges.”
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who promoted the fight, demanded some accountability from the NAC and said the rematch, tentatively scheduled Nov. 10 at the Grand Garden, could be moved elsewhere, depriving Las Vegas and the state of millions of dollars in revenue. Saturday’s fight generated an estimated $10 million in nongaming revenue.
“I must be a schmuck,” an angry Arum said. “I had it 11-1 (11 rounds in Pacquiao’s favor) and these judges had it different. Nobody likes being a schmuck. But this decision was ridiculous. You know who won.”
The 28-year-old Bradley improved his record to 29-0, while Pacquiao, 33, fell to 54-4-2 with his first defeat since 2005.
Pacquiao, gracious in defeat, said he didn’t want a change of venue despite the outcome.
“I prefer to fight in Las Vegas,” Pacquiao said. “I love Vegas, especially the MGM. They have promoted a lot of my fights here. I prefer to come back here.”
Bradley, of course, has no problem returning to Nevada to fight. But he’s going to need some time to heal after suffering a fractured bone in his left foot in the second round and a sprained right ankle in the fifth.
His manager, Cameron Dunkin, confirmed the injuries after Bradley was examined late Saturday. The fighter will have an MRI today on his left foot in his hometown of Palm Springs, Calif., to determine the extent of the damage.
“What do you want me to do? There were three judges and they saw it the way they saw it,” Bradley said while seated in a wheelchair at the postfight news conference. “We definitely need to do this again in November and make it more decisive for everyone.”
Bradley said quitting after the second round was not an option.
“I heard a pop in my foot and I said, ‘Damn, I think I broke my foot,’ ” he said. “I just sucked it up and kept fighting.”
Lost in the controversy of the decision was the extraordinarily long wait for the fight to start. It had been announced the fight wouldn’t begin until the end of Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals. But it took more than an hour after the Miami Heat had eliminated the Boston Celtics for Pacquiao to enter the ring. He had a “Where’s Waldo?” moment when no one could find him inside the Grand Garden. He had retreated to a room adjacent to his dressing room to loosen up on a treadmill.
Avansino twice approached Pacquiao to ask him to wrap up his preparations and make his way to the ring, to no avail.
“I said to Manny, ‘Champ, we need to go now,’ ” Avansino said. “I did everything I could short of calling off the fight, which I wasn’t going to do.”
Ultimately, Pacquiao and Bradley got inside the ropes, fought and became partners in one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history.
While Bradley tends to his injuries, Pacquiao will return to the Philippines, where his loss was greeted by dismay and anger. Philippines Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who watched the bout at the Grand Garden, hoped Pacquiao would win the rematch on Nov. 10.
“For me, what happened here in Vegas was highway robbery,” he told Philippines radio network DZBB by telephone.
As for the judges who crafted the controversy and paved the way for the rematch, they said they can live with their handiwork.
“This wasn’t an ‘American Idol’ contest,” Ford said. “If I judge for the people, I shouldn’t be a judge.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj. The Associated Press contributed to this story.